FADSS Enewsletter
Message from FADSS CEO Bill Montford
Unity and Teamwork are Key to Continued Success in 2022

Against an increasingly challenging backdrop, school districts have successfully supported students, teachers, staff and our communities. The COVID challenge has had an unprecedented impact on the world, our local communities and us as individuals. We all know that public schools are the bedrocks of every community and it is incumbent upon us to continue to provide steady and trustworthy leadership.
I am excited for the future of FADSS and public education in Florida. FADSS is fortunate to have a stellar board of directors and an actively engaged membership committed to continuing to provide a safe, high-quality learning environment that promotes the welfare of students, staff, and the community. The continued unity, teamwork and communication among all 67 superintendents is fundamental to our continued success in confronting the challenges before us in 2022.
FADSS is also fortunate to have a top notch staff and I am pleased to welcome a new member to the FADSS team – Katrina Figgett. Katrina is the new Director of Training, filling a vacancy created by the retirement of longtime FADSS employee Diann Morell. We will miss Diann greatly and wish her a happy and well-earned retirement. We are excited to have Katrina join the team and you can read more about her in a separate article in this newsletter.
I also want to give a shout out to our colleague Collier County Schools Superintendent and Florida’s 2022 Superintendent of the Year, Dr. Kam Patton, who was selected as one of four finalists for National Superintendent of the Year! We know Kam will represent Florida well at the national conference in February and we will be pulling for her.
As we begin to navigate this New Year, with the end of the 2021-2022 school year in sight and the 2022 Florida Legislature set to convene on January 11, the demands on your time will greatly increase. FADSS and Florida superintendents will once again be called upon as the legislative process moves forward. We continually get requests from legislators and their staffs for information and opinions on issues, as well as requests for superintendents to appear before legislative committees.
FADSS enjoys unprecedented access to the legislative process. Having such access to the process is somewhat unusual and certainly beneficial to our mission. It is also a clear reflection of the high level of respect and trust that members of the Legislature have in their own local superintendents.
I encourage you to continue to prioritize efforts to stay in contact with your local delegation and keep them apprised of your challenges – and just as important – your successes.
Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2022 and as always, do not hesitate to reach out if I or any member of the FADSS team can be of assistance.

Bill Montford

FADSS Bids Farewell to Diann Morell
After more than 51 years in public education, with 40 of those overseeing Florida public school superintendent training, Diann Morell made the difficult decision to retire. “I have always said I would know when it was time for me to retire, and that time is now” says Diann.
Diann began her career in public education in 1970 as a first grade teacher at St. Johns Elementary in Gadsden County, carpooling from Tallahassee with other first year teachers. According to Diann, there was a lot of “on the job training” that she learned during her early teaching years that can only be taught through experience. Those lessons grounded her in a fierce commitment to, and support of, public education and have served as the building blocks of her stellar career.
After teaching for eight years, Diann accepted a job at the Florida Department of Education (DOE) with the DOE Title I program in 1980. In 1981, she became the coordinator for the Florida Academy for School Leaders (FASL). At FASL, Diann and her team were responsible for the design and delivery of developmental opportunities for leaders throughout the school system, focusing particularly on executive leadership. In 1993, Diann’s position was contracted to FADSS to continue superintendent training. In 2003, Diann became the FADSS Director of Training, where she continued to administer the Florida Superintendents Special Certification Program and the Chief Executive Officer Leadership Development Program for Florida superintendents.
“Diann has played a vital role in training Florida superintendents and district administrators, including myself,” says FADSS CEO Bill Montford. “Her gracious and humble manner made her an excellent teacher – whether the students were first graders, district administrators, or superintendents. She always made you feel like you were the most important person in the room, and no question was too big, too small or too silly to ask. Diann always challenged her “pupils” and provided unwavering encouragement and support.”
Diann has trained more than a 1,000 superintendents and countless district leaders and administrative assistants during her 40-year career – an astonishing accomplishment!
Diann will be sorely missed; however, we know that she will continue to teach and inspire others as she moves into this exciting new chapter in her life. Join us in wishing Diann well!
[Note: Diann has graciously agreed to stay on part-time through February to ensure a smooth transition for FADSS new Director of Training Katrina Figgett. You can send well wishes to DMorrell@fadss.org]
Superintendent Spotlight: Levy County Superintendent Chris Cowart
Prior to being elected to the superintendency in 2020, you served 8 years as a Levy County school board member. In what ways do you feel your service on the school board prior to being elected a Florida public school superintendent helped to prepare you for your role as the education leader of your community?
I have been very blessed to serve the citizens of Levy County for 9 years. My roles both as a School Board member and now as Superintendent of Schools gave me the ability to see the duties from each side of the District. The biggest asset for me was the professional development that FADSS and FSBA consistently offer each year to grow in each role. Levy County Schools (LCS) has had great leadership in School Board members and Superintendents and I am honored to continue to help LCS and our community grow.

As a school board member, one of your key priorities was implementing career and technical education (CTE) programs in LCS. Now with three programs dedicated to aquaculture, hospitality management and sewer certification, how do you envision further strengthening CTE access for students and why?

Our District has made CTE a priority for our students. We recognize that not every student will go to college therefore we have to create opportunities for these students. Our District has had strong programs in Health Occupational Field that has created the road map for many students to leave us with a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) Certification and continue on in the nursing field. These new programs coupled along with already established programs in Building Construction, Agriculture and Business/Computer Technology gives our students a wide array of areas to search out career paths. We will continue to evaluate new career pathways that LCS can tap into for our students. Our Goal is every kid is either in CTE or Dual Enrollment/AP.
What was the impetus that led you to pursue being a public school superintendent?

I believe the impetus that led me to serve the citizens of Levy as the Superintendent was truly being called by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the desire to be a force of positive change in education in Levy. I felt it was placed on my heart that I had plateaued as a board member and our citizens were looking for a change in leadership and so I answered.
One of the key platform priorities of your candidacy for superintendent was a PreK through 2nd grade Reading Initiative to have every child reading on grade level by 3rd grade. What steps have you taken as superintendent to move this forward?

Our Commissioner of Education and leaders in the business world point to students reading on grade level by 3rd grade as a key benchmark and we are slowly making growth in this area. District leadership before me created a Coordinator of Literacy who works closely at the school level with reading coaches and is in classrooms modeling for teachers. Our District staff understand our goal is to push back down into classrooms and support our teachers. LCS recently started a 3-year grant with the Northeast Florida Education Consortium (NEFEC) focused on rural literacy, and we had representation from each of 6 elementary schools to work on implementing new strategies. While we are still in the infancy stages, I know this strategy will pay dividends in the coming years.

What do you feel is the most challenging barrier at this time in meeting the educational needs of students in your district?

Levy is so blessed to have community schools, but this strength is also a barrier. Having small schools creates opportunities students may not have at a larger school, but is draining on resources. Another true barrier is transportation with the vast geographical size of Levy County. I’m never one to dwell on our barriers but keep striving for solutions for a better Levy!

What do you feel is the most pressing issue facing public education as a whole?

I believe the biggest issue public education faces is we must do a better job of sharing the amazing things we have going on in Florida. It is difficult because you never want to come across as braggadocios but in Levy County our students have left us and went on to be U.S. Congressman, NBA Assistant Coaches, teachers, business owners and even a public school Superintendent. 
You recently were awarded the 2021 STAR Superintendent Award from the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations (CFEF), which recognizes individuals for championing community and business involvement in education through their local education foundations. What do you feel is the biggest benefit of fostering strong private-sector support of public education through local education foundations?

It was extremely humbling to be selected as the CFEF Star Superintendent, particularly given that the list of leaders who have preceded me is made up of giants in education. I know in Levy County the communication and cooperation of our business leaders in our local Educational Foundation is vital to our students and staff success. Whether it is a fundraiser that gives classroom grants for teachers or our new mentoring program with Seniors at our elementary schools, LCS couldn’t do it without these partnerships. Businesses understand the investment in our students will pay off in dividends for generations!   

During your tenure as a superintendent, is there an individual(s) that has served as a mentor to you and/or you admire for their positive impact on you?

I have been blessed with many mentors through the years. Superintendents Rick Shirley (Sumter County) and Sherrie Raulerson (Baker County) and NEFEC Executive Director Dr. Patrick Wnek are three individuals that I reach out to many times to glean the wisdom these three have. I also talk regularly with many of my incoming class of Superintendents. I can’t thank FADSS enough for paring new superintendents with veterans for mentorship.
Any additional comments & thoughts you would like to share? 

I would like to Wish everyone a Happy New Year! I appreciate FADSS and if I can ever help someone please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Getting to Know Superintendent Chris Cowart

What song would you say best sums you up?
Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd, awesome lyrics.

Outside of being a superintendent, what is something that your colleagues may not know about you that you would like to share.
I spent 7 years coaching college basketball.

If you had to choose an animal that your feel is most representative of you, what animal would that be and why?
Tiger because that was my parents nickname for me as a child.

Favorite quote: 
"Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as you can." ~ John Wesley

Book you are currently or recently finished reading:
The 7 habits of Highly Effective People and Atomic Habits

What is your 2022 New Year’s resolution and why did you choose it?
To start back exercising and make my health a priority.
Dr. Kamela Patton Selected as National SOTY Finalist
Congratulations to Collier County Schools Superintendent Dr. Kamela (Kam) Patton and Florida's 2022 Superintendent of the Year on being selected as one of four finalists for AASA’s 2022 National Superintendent of the Year (SOTY). National SOTY is a distinction that honors school system leaders throughout the country who are making a positive difference in the lives of the students they serve, in addition to ensuring the safety and wellness of their school communities.

The 2022 National Superintendent of the Year will be announced during AASA’s national conference on February 17, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.

The National Superintendent of the Year program, now in its 35th year, is open to all U.S. superintendents who plan to continue in the profession. The program also honors international school superintendents. The applicants were measured against the following criteria:

  • Leadership for learning – creativity in successfully meeting the needs of students in the school system
  • Communication – strength in both personal and organizational communication
  • Professionalism – constant improvement of administrative knowledge and skills, while providing professional development opportunities and motivation to others on the education team
  • Community involvement – active participation in local community activities and an understanding of regional, national and international issues

FADSS and Florida superintendents could not be prouder of Dr. Patton and wish her the best of luck!

You can read the full AASA press release here.
Welcoming FADSS New Director of Training
Katrina Figgett joins FADSS after spending the past 21 years in education including 11 years at the Florida Department of Education (DOE). Katrina brings a broad range of experience to FADSS, including experience in professional development, project management, standards and course development, and much more.

During her tenure at DOE, Katrina held several directorships and most recently served as the Director of Innovation and Implementation. In this role, Katrina oversaw computer science, including the $10 million computer science State appropriation, as well as instructional technology including CPALMS the public school repository for standards courses and aligned resources.

Katrina can be reached at kfiggett@fadss.org or 703.576.7556
Welcome to FADSS Katrina!

Source: Mark J. Van Ryzin | The74million.org  | December 29,2021

Schools aren’t just where kids go to learn reading, math, science and history. The social skills they learn – like how to build and maintain relationships with peers – are also critical. This is particularly true as schools grapple with the after effects of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Florida Department of Health Issues New COVID-19 Testing Guidance

FloridaHealth.gov  | January 6, 2022

The state Department of Health issued new COVID-19 testing guidelines on Thursday that discourages people without symptoms of COVID illness from getting tested, saying knowing whether they have contracted the virus is "unlikely to have any clinical benefits," while people who have symptoms and are at risk for serious illness should continue to get tested for presence of the virus. The updated state guidelines differ from the updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s testing protocols.

Overview of COVID-19 Quarantine for K-12 Schools

CDC.Gov  | January 6, 2022

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Updates School Quarantine and Isolation Guidance: Updated K-12 guidance for quarantines and isolation came out Thursday evening and answers some questions. Note that there is now a "should test" to leave quarantine but no test to leave isolation.  
Be sure to follow FADSS on Twitter [@PublicSchoolSup] and tag FADSS in your district tweets so we can share the great stories and happenings in Florida public schools across our state!
FADSS 2021 - 2022 Annual Business Partners
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